Health screenings are tests that look for diseases before symptoms appear. Blood pressure screenings, cholesterol screenings, and diabetes screenings are a few common services for adults. As we age, additional screenings become more important.
Because a smoothly functioning digestive system is essential for day-to-day activities, evaluating the health of our colon becomes more important as we get older. The bad news is, cancer can grow in our colon.
According to medicinenet.com, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the U.S. This type of cancer is a malignant tumor that arises from the inner wall of the large intestine or rectum. “Common risk factors for colorectal cancer include increasing age, African-American race, a family history of colorectal cancer, and colon polyps.”
What is a colon polyp?
Mayo Clinic defines it as a small clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. While most are harmless, some colon polyps develop into colorectal cancer over time. Because colon polyps and early cancer could have no signs or symptoms, if you have any of the risk factors for colorectal cancer, it is important to have regular colorectal cancer screenings.
If you’re 50 or older and at average risk for colon cancer, and you have no colon cancer risk factors other than age, your doctor might recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years. Sometimes physicians suggest patients get one sooner to screen for colon cancer.
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine and rectum. According to Mayo Clinic, a colonoscopy is performed by using a long, flexible tube that is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon. By doing this, doctors can remove polyps or abnormal tissue for sampling and testing.
If you have had polyps in your colon before, doctors could suggest follow-up colonoscopies to look for and remove additional polyps, which can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
“A colonoscopy can also help your doctor explore possible causes of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea, and other intestinal problems,” Mayo Clinic says.
While there are many benefits of getting a colonoscopy, every person’s risk factors and colon health are different. Talk to your doctor about when you should get a colonoscopy based on your family history and current condition.
While colorectal cancer is commonly found in adults in the U.S., the good news is that early-stage colorectal cancers are typically treatable by surgery alone. U.S. Health News says there are over 25 hospitals in Pennsylvania that are ranked high for colon cancer surgery outcomes. To find Pennsylvania hospitals that were ranked high near you, check out the list here.
Be proactive when it comes to your health. Talk to your doctor, and stay on top of the recommended preventive services and screenings for your gender and age group.